Just the mention of Indonesia’s white-sand beaches and luminous turquoise waters triggers thoughts of the well-known hotspot, Bali. At least it did for me! But, you’ll have to venture way beyond Bali in order to explore the very remote Raja Ampat, who can definitely give Indonesia’s most popular island a serious run for its money.
It’s Very Remote.
Raja Ampat is an archipelago of over 1,500 islands and is one of the most isolated group of islands in the world, virtually untouched by touristy attractions and unbearable crowds. From Yogyakarta we took a bus, 2 planes, a ferry and a speed boat to reach the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge in Western Papau.
It was worth every minute traveled.
Raja Ampat Bucket List: Best 7 Things to Do
Most people come for the world-class diving, but if you do not scuba there are plenty of other reasons to travel this far.
1. Watch the Sunset…and Sunrise
Every evening I would walk to the end of the dock at the Raja Amapt Dive Lodge and dangle my feet over the edge in preparation for a show like no other. The sun would set creating a brilliant orange-red sky, while the only background noise was coming from the fish jumping in the sea. Sometimes local long boats would break up the colorful show that shined down on the water, casting a cool shadow that begged to be photographed.
The sunsets are spectacular, but don’t discount the sunrises. It will be worth waking up early for!
2. Snorkel at a Jetty
You don’t need to be a scuba diver to enjoy the underwater world of the Raja Ampat islands. Some of the best sea life can be seen right at the docks (aka: jetties), in less than ten feet of water.
Colorful parrotfish will parade by, cute little Nemos will hide in the plants and starfish will cling to the rocks, plus brilliant coral is all right in front of your mask. Under the dock at Arborek Village schools of fish in the thousands sat in a cluster creating a thick wall. It’s hard to tell but that’s what’s right underneath me in the picture below. At the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge jetty, striped lionfish lackadaisically floated by and if you are lucky you could spot one of the waking sharks in the evening.
Many times you didn’t even need to get into the water to see the action. Just stand at the edge of the dock and look down.
3. Hike Piaynemo for a 5-Star View in Raja Ampat
Indonesia is filled with beautiful scenery, but for me none was more picturesque than the view from the top of Piaynemo Island in Raja Ampat. Pulling up to the small dock on the island, there was a set of stairs heading straight up into the forest.
These 318 steps (I counted!) were strenuous in the humid heat, but the view from the top was worth every single one. From the peak you can see an iconic karst island seascape, small islands surrounded by a dozen shades of brilliant turquoise. This million dollar view wasn’t my only reward, so was the fresh coconut juice waiting for me at the bottom. When I was there the vendor was selling them for 15,000 ($1.15 USD). Don’t tell him, but I would have paid 50,000!
It’s a million dollar view that will be etched in memory forever.
4. Walk on a Floating Sand Island
Pasir Timbul is a sand island in the middle of the ocean that can only be seen a few hours a day, when the tide is low. Don’t miss your chance!
If you come at the right time, you can walk with the soft white sand in between your toes while surrounded by a gradient of crystal blue water. But beware that it can get really hot, so double up on sunscreen.
If you are not a get-in-the-water type of person, you don’t even need to get wet in order to interact with the colorful fish of Raja Ampat. Right on the dock of the tiny village of Sawinggrai the villagers will concoct a flour mixture that the fish just love. Simply sit at the end of the dock and watch as dozens swarm.
The village is also know for the iconic Cenderawasih bird, so try to break away from the fish for long enough to do a little bird watching.
6. Meet the Locals
One of the best things about Raja Ampat was walking through the villages and meeting the people who live there. No matter where I went the locals were warm and friendly.
Almost everyone greets you with an “Halo”.
In Arborek, an entourage of children followed as I walked through their town. They all struck a pose when I turned the camera on them, most flashing the peace sign with their fingers. And then they shyly giggled when I show them the photos. In Sawinggrai one little girl was a one man band pounding on the bottom of an old bucket while her sibling danced to the music. When they saw me watching, they briefly stopped, then carried on for their audience of one.
Whereas Gili and Bali will be crowded with tourists, in Raja Ampat you will barely run into any. With this can bring a more meaningful travel experience where you can really immerse yourself with the locals and unwind. Take your opportunity of being in such a remote location by totally disconnecting.
No Facebook! No Email! No YouTube!
If you’re looking for a place to truly relax where your days will be spent lying in hammocks, listening to the wildlife in the trees and swimming in the pristine blue waters, then Raja Ampat is it.
Essential Tips for Visiting Raja Ampat
Getting There: The best way to get to Raja Ampat is to fly to Sorong’s Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Indonesia’s West Papua province. To get to Sorong, find a flight to Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar or Manado. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From Sorong to the Raja Ampat islands, you can take a public ferry or a speedboat.
Where to Stay in Raja Ampat: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. Alter Native Stay (moderate) is a great choice in Tapokreng. For something on the less expensive side, try Kakatua Hostel, which includes airport shuttles, located in Tapokreng. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Since the Raja Ampat islands are so remote, getting around is a little tricky. The best way to get around is by hiring a boat. Most hotels and home stays provide boats for getting around There is no inter-island transportation available, so be sure to organize travel and transfers with your hotel and homestay in advance.
Best Tours in Raja Ampat: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones: